Thursday, June 21, 2007

Venter's Microbesoft and Synthetic Biology

Word on the street, from the highly speculative New Scientist, is that SyntheticGenomics will soon unveil the first synthetic bacterium. (speculation is the very last sentence of the artcle). SyntheticGenomics is a company started by Dr. Craig Venter of the private human genome project fame and has the goal of creating a synthetic cell based on a minimal genome as an industrial bioproduction tool (the science behind this is on their website). I don't really understand the huge advantage over just using the old fashioned biotech workhorse, E.coli, however it has sparked some protest, notably by a technology watchdog, ETC group, based here in Ottawa, Canada. Their concerns don't include many specifics except for the lack of public consultation and the implications of a broad patent held by SyntheticGenomics. There are comparisons made that SyntheticGenomics could become the Microsoft of synthetic biology hence the term Microbesoft. The Science Magazine article about the controversy includes a statement that the patent could likely be easily sidestepped. Nevertheless the ETC group must have some good lawyers as you can see by their recent success against Monsanto's broad soybean patent.


Bayman said...

I'm seeing a talk here in Zurich from the guy running that project! Stay tuned for my bayblab exclusive report!